On Socrates’ intentions

On Socrates’ intentions.  What did Socrates intend not to do above all?  He intended not to disregard a gift with which nothing can be made, not even a clear idea of wisdom or holiness.  A useless, utterly useless, if divine, gift.  Perhaps a divine gift as much as the stings of a horsefly are divine gifts!  As much as annoyance itself is a divine gift!  He intended not to make philosophy another trinket in the marketplace, or a way to set up a booth in the marketplace.  He wanted, above all, that the philosopher not find a way of making a living off of, or out of, philosophy, that they are not paid for it, unless their payments come in bitterness for lack of indulgence, starry-eyed attempts to relate to the philosopher with the latest in New Age ramblings, or some stake or poison or other, whether an outright stake or poison or one more subtle, like simply nodding the head at the wise man when one’s head should be on fire.

            And what did he do?  Did he succeed?  Of course he succeeded!  (Socrates was nothing if not a clever man who knew how to get his way; for instance, he could make senators and clergymen stop on their way to their institutions in order to–what?–have a friendly and dawdling conversation with him!)  For even in the case of those who have come closest to spurning their master–the academics and professors of all kinds, those who are duly paid by their own institutions to practice or speak for their allotted hours about philosophy–what else is given them besides the payments they are forever cursed to receive?  Bitterness when the philosopher in the professor goes too far, or starry eyes and New Age panaceas from their pupils no less than their fellows on the faculty?  Or a stake.  Or poison….  Only this time the good fellows in charge, the men or the women who will invite the philosopher to an esteemed position within their ranks–for a price–are crafty enough themselves to make sure that the stake or the poison is always cunningly, wickedly subtle.

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